Search for Nightlife: the urge to merengue | Calendar | Chicago Reader

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Search for Nightlife: the urge to merengue

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Dynasty Club Bar, 5447 N. Lincoln: How sad for Fraulein Schnitzel! Here she was on holiday, sitting alone at a small table beneath the silver spheres and red, green, and yellow balloons, watching the others have fun. For days she had longed to merengue but no one would or the wrong music was playing. Overwrought, unable to chew or swallow, she thought back over her doomed journey: her wanderings near the Ungererstrasse, the nights of exclusion and abandonment in Venice while the dreaded sirocco gathered its ill force to the south.

At Excalibur's Thursday Latin night, the South American businessman she had met while taking the waters at Baden-Baden agreed to dance with her once but only after a great deal of suggestion on Schnitzel's part. Ralph, another gentleman who frequents the Latin nights and is in his 80s, offered to take her on the floor but after two minutes he said, "This is impossible."

Upon Schnitzel's return to the hotel, the concierge said perhaps it was the architecture of the Dome Room--"The ceiling is so high." Schnitzel shook her head sadly. "No, it is me. I missed the laissez-aller of my youth. Neurasthenic and a genius, I was kept from school in my little town in Silesia and educated at home, alone." She rang up her friend Francisco, an expatriate from Puerto Rico, who said she probably wasn't moving her pelvis enough.

The next evening she pleaded with Senor Solly, who was always hanging around the hotel lobby, to escort her to K-Dron on North Milwaukee, but it was impossible to merengue as it was B96 night, not Saturday Latin night, and anyway Solly doesn't know how to dance very well. All he can do is rock his torso back and forth. They went to Hank's on Cicero but the few men inside looked away from Schnitzel, preferring to eat their dinner. At Tania's (they were back on Milwaukee), the men chose to dance with their wives so Solly and Schnitzel each took a sample of Blanco laundry whitener from a cardboard display near the bar and went to El Gato on Irving, where Solly assured Schnitzel that someone would want her in his arms. After the guard body-searched Solly and found his toothbrush, Solly went off to do a folk dance with Maria, who wore very little clothing and high silver shoes with silver ribbons around the ankles; Solly later confided to Schnitzel that he wasn't sure what Maria's gender was but it did the job. Three men with glazed eyes asked Schnitzel to dance all at once but it was not the merengue that was on their minds. Schnitzel declined and put on Solly's gray fedora so no one would injure her nose. When they left, they were so tired from getting in and out of Solly's Honda that they retired to their rooms.

Schnitzel rang up Francisco again who called his Aunt Monica who called a friend who found a young dancing man for Schnitzel though it was arranged that she would pay for his refreshments. Now here she was at the Dynasty Club Bar, under the balloons. Her escort had gone back to the car for her dancing pumps. Schnitzel wondered if he would ever return. Even if he did, did she really want to go on the dance floor and mince about like the others, doing small, formal steps back and forth, left and right, over and over, always in couples? Schnitzel had to admit that watching the merengue made her seasick. The salsa was even worse. She had heard once of another place to holiday, where the people dance by jumping up and down and rolling their eyes and sticking their fingers in their ears and doing whatever else they please. They say it is a mad, wild place where anyone can swagger alone, unleashed. It is called the country of rock and roll. Mick Jagger is president.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Tom Bachtell.

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